If Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo leaves for the Cleveland Cavaliers, I'll be at peace with the move. Then again, I'm just one person whose allegiances don't lie with the Spartans. Unlike Debbie Stabenow.
She's not just any ol' Sparty fan. She's also one of Michigan's senators. Along with six Michigan U.S. representatives, she wrote a letter to Coach Izzo asking him to stay in East Lansing and reject the Cavaliers' alluring offer to make him rich enough to be LeBron James' manservant.
A portion of the letter:
Coach Izzo, you certainly have had great success on the basketball court, with an NCAA National Championship, six Final Four appearances and four National Coach of the Year awards ... Far more important than that in our eyes, however, is that you have been an ambassador for Michigan, a philanthropist and the kind of leader of student athletes of whom every Michigander can be proud.
The knee-jerk reaction (which you'll find in just about any comment thread tied to this story) is that politicians have far bigger problems than a basketball coach changing jobs. Wars, leaking oil, health care, immigration, and the pothole outside my driveway. This has always been my inclination, too. GET BACK TO WORK YOU BUMS; LET ME WORRY ABOUT THE IMPORTANT SPORTS THINGS! (See, I can say that, because I pay their taxes.)
Is it all right for politicians to take a break and publicly opine about sports?
Isn't that what we all do at work?
We're all busy laypeople. We've shattered the 40-hour workweek to get shit done, and yet we commit ourselves to football pools, March Madness brackets, and the typical cubicle prairie dog convo about last night's game. We're on the company clock, dudes! Why, the World Cup is costing your employers millions!
But it's more than simply an entertainment itch that we all must scratch. Stabenow and company are doing this for a few reasons:
(1) Traditional wisdom dictates that if you can agree with someone on nothing, at least you'll find common ground in sports. Hey, it's a start.
(2) It helps make politicians look a little more human. Hey, they like the things I like. What's your favorite burger, Mrs. Senator?
(3) Perhaps the most useful reason: this promotes their territory. Tom Izzo is an iconic figure in not just the Michigan sports scene, but in general. That's why he was asked to be part of this "Pure Michigan" commercial: